New Culture Ideals, Chinese Women, and the May 4th Incident

The May 4th Incident of 1919 can be viewed as a culmination of enthusiasm for the ideals presented in the New Culture Movement, discontent with the fractured nature of Chinese governance, and the unique geopolitical context in the aftermath of the first world war1. The protest itself was initiated by over 3000 Beijing students upset with the terms provided to the Chinese delegation at the Versailles conference, who then took to the streets for a protest that eventually ended with the burning of several government offices and numerous arrests2. In the eyes of many Chinese, these students had simply been acting on a discontent that permeated throughout China in the 1910's, and in this context, strikes and protests spread throughout China in solidarity with the student's actions. The importance of the May 4th incident can be analyzed by a look at the values of the New Culture Movement which inspired many of the student protestors, which included a critique of the gender order in China3.

1 Zarrow, Peter. China in war and revolution, 1895 - 1949. London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2007. 150

2 Gray, Jack. Rebellions and revolutions: China from the 1800s to the 2000. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. 198-199

3 Koetse, Manya. " Gendered Nationalism and May Fourth: China’s ‘New Woman’ ." Manya Koetse (web log), December 08, 2012. Accessed September 21, 2017. para 19-20


Created as a part of the Politics of Peace and Gender Course at Cleveland State University